I admit to be a sucker for trades, rumours, and speculation. I also am aware that I’m a total rube when it comes to this and that most of this is hype that has very little chance of happening. Still, I want to believe that exciting things are going to happen, and that’s why I love the TSN Trade Bait board.
Leafs on the Board
The Leafs have six players on the board, a list consisting of 35 players, so Toronto is pretty well represented. If you are feeling extra nostalgic you also can appreciate that Phil Kessel and James Reimer are in play. Neat.
Anyway, back to the Leafs players, let’s break down who is available from Toronto
Nikita Zaitsev is in the number one spot on the trade bait board. There is a damned good chance he gets traded, and with Karlsson signed, Niskanen and Gudas flip flopped, and the Jets have been fleeced on Trouba, Zaitsev is one of the few non-Hurricane right handed defensemen available right now.
The upside to this is that the idea of dealing Zaitsev as an asset seems to be improving every day. The downside is that as the right handed defensemen market shrinks, there is an increased need for keeping Zaitsev for another season with the Leafs.
Odds are he’s gone and we’ll be satisfied with the deal. We’re just stuck playing the waiting game.
Patrick Marleau is at 11, so a pretty big gap here in between Leafs. We certainly know the Leafs are motivated to move Marleau, and are exploring options with Arizona and Los Angeles.
It’s hard to imagine any deal happens until July 1st here, so like with Zaitsev, I’ll preach some patience, but more than ever before I believe this trade could happen.
Additionally, I’m curious if the Sharks don’t sign Pavelski or if Thornton considers a non-Sharks team, if Marleau would be interested in reunited with his former teammates at their new destination as well, assume that team has the cap space and/or the will to bring Marleau in for a year. It would probably need to be a California based team for it to work, but we know one thing for certain after the Karlsson signing, it’s that Marleau won’t be in San Jose next year.
Connor Brown is right on Marleau’s heels at 13. There is absolutely a market for Brown, who is going to be seen as a 2/3 line tweener by some teams thinking that he’s been a victim of the Leafs depth. His contract is right for moving, and with the Leafs not requiring a massive return on him, Brown is as good as gone. I’d be shocked if he’s still a Leaf after the draft, and I think at this point Kyle Dubas is playing chicken with the rest of the league hoping to get a second round pick out of someone for him.
Garret Sparks is at 17. Sure, why not? I mean, I think the Leafs want to rid themselves of him, but I’m confused about there being a market willing to give up an asset for him. I’m all for dreaming on this, and on the second day of the draft someone might decide to roll the dice on acquiring a backup or third string goaltender for a late pick.
I just feel bad for TSN’s readers that Sparks is taking up real estate on this list.
Nazem Kadri completes the top 20. Here’s the thing on Nazem, if you trade him you should be able to bring an absolute mammoth return or could potentially address the RHD situation in the deal. Moving Kadri is significant.
The problem with moving Kadri is that there isn’t anything resembling an internal option for the 3rd line center position on the Leafs, unless you plan on putting William Nylander through hell for an entire season. If the Leafs deal Kadri they are going to be spending some money on his replacement, who is also going to be a downgrade. I’m not saying you don’t still consider this, but I’m saying up until now the names on the list from the Leafs have been no brainers and Kadri requires a lot of debate.
Mitch Marner makes his debut in the world of trade rumours closing out the list at 35. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the odds are that Mitch Marner will be a Leaf next season, and for the foreseeable future, but at this point, the Leafs would be absolutely insane not to be taking calls on him, and other teams would be equally insane to not see if they can pry Mitch out of Toronto.
Much like Kadri, and obviously beyond Kadri, Marner nets a huge return, and removing Marner from the picture also removes the cap issues from the picture, but there is the small matter of trading away your top scorer and that would involve a commitment to the Leafs downgrading that position, which I’d argue is a reasonable thing for them to do, but respect that many of you don’t share my views on this topic. We’ll have that debate another day.
I will say this though, if Marner goes to July 1st without a contract, every option needs to be considered beyond just testing the waters, as I’d hope the Leafs would have exhausted reasonable contract offers by the end of this week.
Noticeably Absent Leafs
The fact that Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson aren’t on the board is interesting, especially when Mitch Marner found his way on there. A lot of the lead up to the draft involved discussion about how the Leafs would have to make a decision on whether they could keep these wingers, and I guess with the rise of the Zaitsev and Marleau possibilities, we’re now seeing both players as being potentially retained.
I still can’t help but think that’s an oversight, considering that neither has a contract, and on July 1st they do become two of the more appealing offer sheet targets, as they will likely only require a 2nd round pick as compensation.
I’d also think that Freddie Gauthier, Justin Holl, and Jeremy Bracco are names that could be associated with the rumour mill to some degree, but much like Sparks, they probably don’t warrant taking up real estate on the list.
Who should the Leafs want off the list?
The Trade Bait Board should just be about selling, it should be about buying too, and the board provides a lot of hope around right handed defensemen being available.
P.K. Subban at #9 is by far the most intriguing option, and it’s hard not to imagine that a Muzzin-Subban pairing would be the greatest Leafs defensive pairing in at least three decades. The problem with that being that Subban is expensive and the Leafs need to consider cheaper options.
Kris Letang is in at #33, but price and injury history make him at best a Plan B to Subban if Toronto is in fact chasing a big fish.
Colin Miller, Justin Braun and Travis Hamonic are those cheaper options, and the ones that we should really be excited about, Miller in particular seems like he could be had at a reasonable price and making that happen should be a dream of all of ours. Hamonic seems like he’d require the price tag of one the Leafs RFA wingers, and honestly, that’s a price we should all be comfortable paying too.
As for Justin Braun, I can honestly say I have no idea, but the Sharks are probably looking to shed some salary. Enter Jeremy Bracco? Who knows, but as a pending 2020 UFA, Braun isn’t a terrible rental option as long you aren’t paying a premium for him.
Last and definitely least is Kevin Shattenkirk, who comes with a big price tag and isn’t particularly good anymore. The Rangers have expressed a willingness to eat some salary here, but he doesn’t seem like a reasonable risk for the Leafs unless there is a kicker attached to the deal.
Looking at non-RHD options available on the list, the name that sticks out is Jesse Puljujarvi. Puljujarvi could be a cheaper replacement for Johnsson or Kapanen, with a considerably higher upside attached. Potentially he’s their replacement, but there’s also potentially some benefit to keeping another young Finn like Kapanen around to work with him.
That state that Puljujarvi is in is that he’ll be a project for whatever team acquires him, and his value is nowhere near the top 5 pick level the Oilers selected him at, but it seems reasonable the Oilers still expect somewhat of a decent return for him.
What Should We Expect?
This week I’m expecting a painful amount of silence out the Leafs as they maintain the facade of the Marner contract being the first and foremost thing on the go. Quietly I’d expect that we’ll see a few draft day deals get sorted out in advance, and potentially the landing spots for Zaitsev and Marleau on July 1st to be determined.
As much as I’d want to be living on social media waiting for Leafs announcements, I think we’re going to be treated to a lot of static. I will say that I will be shocked if Sparks and Brown are still Leafs by Sunday evening.